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Goya’s painting of a dog’s head peering upwards from behind a slope, painted directly onto the walls of his house, was the inspiration for Saura’s Imaginary Portrait of Goya. Saura explained: ‘I have always thought of this head as Goya himself watching “something happen”’. While evoking a great national tradition, this portrait may have been quietly subversive. Goya was famous as a witness to the corruption and barbarities of the Napoleonic invasion. Saura, painting at a time when General Franco still ruled Spain, invoked this spirit but turned the watching head outwards on the contemporary world.

July 2012